★★★.5 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Amy Holden Jones and written by Rita Mae Brown
You’ve seen the VHS tape. You’ve seen the poster. Hell, you’ve probably even seen the trailer for this 1980s slice of brilliance, BUT have you actually seen the movie? 1982’s Slumber Party Massacre is that film. In 1980s retro worship circles, this film is definitely at the top of the pile. The imagery. The provenance. The tagline: Close your eyes for a second…and sleep forever. It’s got all the makings of pure 1980s goodness, but at the end of the day is Slumber Party Massacre any good?
Turns out the answer is a definitive, yes. Slumber Party Massacre is a trope-setter and a genre-definer. Allegedly, the film was original conceived of as a parody of the emerging slasher genre, but in the end opted to play it straight. What emerged was a rather self-aware, humorous, but chilling little piece of slasher lore. While the plot exists almost entirely in the title of the film itself, it, rather succinctly, involves a group of teens, lead by Trish (Michelle Michaels), who decides to throw a slumber party while her parents are out of town. The very morning of the slumber party, imprisoned serial killer, Russ Thorn (Michael Villella), busts out of the looney bin ready to wreak havoc. Interestingly, Russ Thorn is shown early, often, and without mask. There’s no mystique, there’s no back-story, there’s no worn out exposition about what makes him kill. He’s just a guy with a jean jacket, an auger-type drill, and a penchant for killing, killing, and killing — teens, that is. Russ Thorn, for no good reason, shows up at Trish’s school and starts, well, killing.
Before Russ Thorn ratchets up the killing, Trish befriends star student and all-around goody-too-shoes, Val (Robin Stille), who, along with her little sister, live down the street from Trish. The rest of Trish’s gaggle of teen hotness (Kim, Jackie, and Diane) aren’t down with Val’s prudish ways, but Trish definitely sees a neighborly kindness. The girls settle in to an evening of doobies, daiquiris, and a heaping dose of boy talk. Oblivious to the word around them the girls have no idea that Russ Thorn has inexplicably began terrorizing the local neighborhood with his giant auger drilling device. The pizza guy, the neighbor, the skeezy boys who are swarmed around the gaggle of teen hotness — all them perish at the hands of Russ Thorn and his horrific auger.
The girls smartly arm themselves, deftly hide in inconspicuous locations, and largely (read: some do) don’t get caught in pitfalls of teen slasher tropes. As Russ Thorn closes in on Trish and the remaining girls, valiant Val, her little sister, and the girl’s basketball coach, Coach Jana, come to the rescue. They collectively descend on Trish’s house and Russ Thorn and his devlish auger get their comeuppance. In a purely offensive act, Val seizes a machete and uses it to chop Russ’ auger down to size, but not before she satisfyingly chops his hand off and puts him in his place.
Looking at the Slumber Party Masscare in a post #metoo movement environment is fascinating to say the least. The women in the film (while nude a fair bit) are empowered, smart, relentless, fearless, and ultimately need no assistance from the male neighbor, the male coeds, or the male pizza deliveryman. In a hyper-prescient way, the female filmmakers take the final girl trope and the girls in peril symbolism and turn it all on its dunder-headed head. Whether the filmmakers knowingly decided that the girls would be so powerful and bodacious, or whether it was dumb luck as a result of switch in the tone of the plot, Slumber Party Massacre works on many endearing levels. Female empowerment, mixed with a dose of gore and some salacious teen reverie, makes for a film that’s as darkly entertaining in the 21st century as it was in 1982. Do your self a favor and get woke and get down with what the Slumber Party Massacre is serving.
Slumber Party Massacre is rated R and available for streaming on Amazon.